Sunday, April 6, 2014

Leftover lamb roast dinner

Oh my goodness. I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since I posted here.
I guess life’s been keeping me quite busy!

So I’m here tonight to boast. Yep. Let’s be honest. Because I just cooked the most amazing dinner using leftover lamb roast!

It went a little something like this:

You’ll need:
Shredded roast lamb
Finely diced smoked pork neck
Diced new potatoes (skin on)
Sliced onion
Finely sliced carrot
Shredded cabbage (we actually used wombok)
Olive oil
Tuscan seasoning

Par-cook your potatoes (no water needed) in the microwave then toss them in some Tuscan seasoning (which is basically rosemary, parsley, salt and garlic).
Heat a small amount of olive oil in a large non-stick pan at high heat, and fry off your smoked pork. I will admit, I COMPLETELY forgot to put the pork in my version tonight, because hubby put the pork in the fridge, and I forgot about it! I am imagining though that the addition of the salty pork would have taken this meal from amazing to phenomenal.
Once the pork has browned, add those potatoes and fry until they’re gorgeous and brown.
Toss in your sliced onions and carrots in and cook for a minute or two, until the onion starts to soften.
Stir through a knob of butter (about 70g).
Add your shredded lamb and allow it time to brown a little.
At this point, you want to throw in your cabbage with another small knob of butter. We used wombok, because we had it in the fridge, but ordinary cabbage would work too.
Season with some salt and pepper and pop on a lid, to allow the cabbage to wilt.

So there you go. One pan. Happy kids. And one suitably impressed husband.

And I didn’t have to do the washing up!

x Bec

Monday, April 1, 2013

Pumpkins galore

It's pumpkin season at Willowvale - and my-oh-my Peter's grown some amazing pumpkins this year! I'll let the pictures speak for themselves, I think.
And I best get working on some quick, easy and freezer-friendly recipes!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stress-free school books

Okay. I'll admit it. Never in a million years did I think I'd be writing this post. But that was pre-children. Pre-school. Before the seemingly small things gained the power to take over my life!
For the past two weeks it feels like every Facebook rant and every school-yard conversation has been on the topic of school books. More specifically, about covering school books in that dreaded sticky stuff called Contact.
Most people hate covering books. I'm not sure whether it's the man-hours involved (sorry - mother hours) or whether it's the sheer frustration of dealing with those large sheets of the sticky plastic stuff you buy from the newsagent that seems to have a mind of its own.
Last year I approached my debut as a school mum with gusto, but even with the best of intentions, my book-covering weekend ended in tears and tantrums.
This year, when it came time to consider which kind of book covering to use, my newsagent gave me two options - clear Contact, or a very limited range of very ugly, very (I can't even think of another word)  STUFF.
And so I took matters into my hands.
Searching the internet I came across The Book Cover Co., who are based in Vermont, Victoria. They manufacture a range of book covering supplies that are targeted at libraries and other professionals. Beauty!
And so, I emailed. Tom, the boss-man, was prompt in his reply (by the way, this bloke SEWS. Yep, he can drive a sewing machine!). He recommended the best product for the task at hand. And two days later I had, at my door, a 20m roll of his clear, matt, REPOSITIONABLE adhesive film. It cost me $53.
And this is what I did with it:


  • Clear book covering adhesive (I recommend Plascote from The Book Cover Co.)
  • Brown paper
  • Spray adhesive
  • Decorative paper (I printed mine from Mr Printables)
  • Cutting mat
  • Rotary cutter or art knife
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • School book labels
Step 1
Start by covering your book in brown paper. Spray the outside of your book (one side at a time) with adhesive. This stuff does tend to overspray, so lay down a drop-sheet of some sort that is separate from your book covering work area, otherwise you'll end up in a sticky mess.

Smooth out any bubbles and then trim around the book to get a nice, neat finish. (Thanks to Alice for this photo - it's very hard to photograph this stuff while you're actually doing it!)

Now for the fun part! Using your coloured paper (or wrapping paper, fabric, paper doilies, washi tape or anything really), decorate the front of your book. I used the spray adhesive once again. But take care - too much spray and it will soak through and show on the front of your paper!

Remember to add your book label (I printed ours on some full-page labels and then cut them down to size), and then it's time to get sticky!

Measure out your clear adhesive and cut it to size. You don't need to leave much more than 2-3cm around each edge. Then, carefully peel back the paper backing, make sure the film is laying flat on your work surface, and position your book towards one end. Do this with your book CLOSED. You then need to trim the corners, to give you a neat finish.

I like to fold in the end pieces first. Then I use my scissors to put a slit in the film at the top and bottom spine.

Lift the inside pages up, and then fold in the film at the top and bottom.Once that's done, very carefully lift your covered side up and 'roll' it over to sit down on the other half of the film. Then repeat the steps you've just done above. Depending on how thick your book is, you might need to snip your spine again, and then remove the little 'tag' that's left over.

If you're using Contact brand adhesive, by now you're probably cursing. But I found the Plascote matt 80 micron product to be stress-free. I did not get a single bubble! And don't they look great?

I've been chatting to Tom, from The Book Cover Co., and he's keen to solve all of your school book covering woes! So send him an email at and tell him Little Toot sent you. He'll fix you up (and I hear there's a discount!). Plus, he also sells tape, cutting mats and loads of other handy bits and pieces.

DISCLAIMER: This process worked for me, using the products mentioned. No responsibility is taken for tantrums thrown as a result of using that 'other' brand of book covering.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Reducing food waste

With the kids going back to school this week - Alice in Year 1 and Lucy starting pre-school - I've spent a bit of time recently trying to get more organised.
I spent a good part of last week in the kitchen preparing healthy lunches and snacks that I could freeze - mini muffins, pikelets, Vegemite scrolls, chicken and veg sausage rolls and mini quiches to name a few.
I started a Pinterest board of lunchbox ideas and hope to continue adding and referring to it throughout the year.

But while researching freezer-friendly lunchbox ideas, I was amazed by some of the tips I found for minimising food waste.
I think we all know you can freeze bananas in the skin when they start to go brown - I always have two or three in my freezer. But there are so many other items that can be rescued from the chook bucket, compost or bin!

Shallots/spring onions
These can be chopped up and popped into a container in the freezer for later use in cooking (I tested this last night in our Chinese fried rice and it worked a treat!)

If you have an abundance of herbs in your garden, these can be frozen too. Chop them up and freeze them in icecubes, which you can then transfer to containers.

Can be frozen whole and used for both their zest and juice.

Buy fruit like grapes and strawberries while they are in season and cheap and simply pop them in the freezer. Grapes taste yummy frozen and strawberries can be used in smoothies.

Don't let bread go stale in the pantry. Eat the first part of the loaf fresh for sandwiches and then pop the rest in the freezer for toast.

If you're planning on going away and have milk that won't get used, pop it in the freezer. It will save a run to the shops after the long drive home!

When a recipe calls for egg yolks only you can save the whites by freezing them. If you do it in icecube trays in single portions, it's then easy to defrost and use them next time a recipe calls for whites!

Tomato paste
Most of the time when I use tomato paste the recipe only calls for a couple of tablespoons - I've learnt you can freeze the rest of the tub in containers or icecube trays.

Cherry tomatoes
And although this isn't a freezer recipe, this week also taught me that slow-cooked/dehydrated cherry tomatoes are delicious and can be stored in the fridge, covered in olive oil! We're still getting far more tomatoes than we need, so I roasted some off (at about 120 degrees for a couple of hours) with a few cloves of garlic, salt and pepper, then popped them in a mason jar covered in olive oil. We've used them on pizza, in pasta and as antipasto. Yummo!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Amazing spinach and bacon quiche

I love school holidays.
Despite the kids' fights, and the tears, and far too much TV, I love that in the past couple of weeks I've had time to indulge in some of the things I most love - the garden, a spot of reading, and a little bit of retail therapy.
Yesterday we picked about 3kg of tomatoes (of various colours, shapes and sizes) from our garden.
Now, if you're anything like me, and detest those poor excuses for tomatoes that they try to sell us at the supermarket and greengrocer, then you'd know I was quite literally in heaven.
We spent the afternoon making a batch of pasta sauce (onions, garlic, tomatoes, fresh basil and oregano, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and sugar) and then bottled it for later use.
(Photography by Alice - age 6)

About 4 o'clock I was feeling a bit peckish, so I ducked down to the shops for a loaf of organic sourdough. It took me all of 10 minutes to slice it, toast it, rub on some fresh garlic (from the farm) and top it in diced tomatoes, basil from the garden, salt, pepper and oil. And it was the best tasting bruschetta I've ever had (yes, I was even compelled to share it on Facebook).

For dinner, we cooked a lamb mince bolognese-type dish with meat from the farm, some leftover chorizo and capsicum from the garden. The kids thought it was awesome.
Today, after another day of sunshine, we harvested another kilo of tomatoes - gorgeous yellow and red cherry tomatoes, romas and a beautiful round variety of which I wish I could remember the name!
We delivered two paper bags full to the neighbours and then I set to work on tonight's dinner... which kind of brings me to the point of this post!
I made a delicious quiche. And it went something like this:

Spinach, bacon, caramalised onion and roasted tomato quiche

Start by roasting your cherry tomatoes in a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. You want them soft and golden, without being burnt.
Blind bake some frozen shortcrust pastry according to the manufacturer's directions.
Roughly chop about two or three rashers of bacon and fry them off in a pan. Remove.
Now, I used the same pan for this but you could use a clean one. Slice two red onions and pop them into your pan with a small knob of butter, stirring until translucent. Add a small amount of water, to soften the onions, and cook until almost dry. Stir in a splash of balsamic vinegar and two teaspoons of brown sugar. What you want to end up with is a relish-type consistency. When they're done, set them aside.
Rinse and chop three stalks of silverbeet (or baby spinach, if you prefer) and with some water still on the leaves, pop it inside a sealed freezer bag in the microwave for about 45 seconds, to wilt.
Dice up about half a block of feta cheese.
Whisk four or five eggs with about half a cup of cream (I used the Philadelphia Cream for Cooking) and a splash of milk. Add salt, and pepper.
Once your tomatoes are done, and your pastry, it's time to assemble.
Spread your caramalised onion over the base, then fill the quiche dish with spinach, bacon, tomatoes and feta. Pour over your egg and cream mixture. Grate a little parmesan cheese over the top and pop it in a 180 degree oven until your egg mix has set and the top is golden.
Serve with a garden salad.

Mine was washed down with a nice Barossa red wine (my first drink since New Year's Eve!). And no, I don't have photos, because everyone was in too much of a hurry to eat! Needless to say though, it was amazing!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy Birthday Lucy!

My second baby Lucy celebrates her birthday on December 30 and it's always been such a difficult time of year for hosting parties!
This year though, for her 4th birthday, we decided to invite some special little friends for a New Year's Day 'Lemonade and Lollipops' party.
And oh what fun we had!

Thanks to super-cousin Eliza for the face painting, Bloom Designs Online for the invitations and printables, The Little Big Company for the drinks dispenser and lovely lollipops and Occasion by Design for the buckets and other bits and pieces.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

DIY fabric-covered pencil tin

If you want to give your workspace or the kids’ craft table an instant lift, here’s a quick and easy project that even the older kids will be able to do themselves. These would also make a great gift for school teachers or grandparents.
1 empty food can (400g size), washed thoroughly, labels removed
Fabric of your choice (a 15cm cut or fat quarter will be ample)
Heavy fusible interfacing
Spray adhesive
Craft glue

Step 1: Make sure you are using a can with no sharp edges. Measure the height of your can (not including that little round lip on the top and bottom edge) and add 2cm (you will have a measurement of about 12.5cm).

Step 2: Next, mark out and cut (or cut using a rotary cutter and rule) a rectangle of interfacing that is 26cm wide x the height you measured in step 1 (12.5cm).

Step 3: Fuse your interfacing to your fabric, and if you have a directional print remember that the long sides of the interfacing will be the top and bottom of your can.

Step 4: Cut around the piece of interfacing.

Step 5: Using a piece of cardboard if you have one, mark a pencil line 1cm from the long edge of your card. This will form your pressing template. Starting on the two long sides, turn under and press a neat 1cm hem. Topstitch each of the long sides down, about 5mm in from the edge. If you don’t have a sewing machine, this could also be done by hand.

Step 6: Turn under ONE short end and press a 1cm hem. Top stitch as above. There is no need to hem the other short end. You should then having something that looks like this:

Step 7: Apply spray adhesive to the back of your fabric and starting with the raw end, carefully roll your fabric around the can. When you get to the hemmed end, apply a small amount of craft or hot glue and press down firmly.